Article Categories Home-and-Family Special-Education

Observation By Independent Evaluators For Children In Special Education


By: Joann Collins


Are you the parent of a child with a disability, who will be getting
an Independent Education Evaluation (IEE), for your child? Have you
been told by special education personnel, that the evaluator may not
observe your child in the classroom? This article will discuss the rules
about independent evaluators observing your child in their current
placement.

When school districts conduct evaluations, they usually include an
observation of the child with a disability, in their classroom. This
is one reason, that it is important for independent evaluators to
observe the child in their classroom, as part of an IEE. Another
reason is because special education personnel will challenge any IEE,
where the evaluator has not observed the child in their placement.

Even though school personnel will challenge a parent's IEE, for lack
of evaluator observation, they often tell parents that their evaluator
is prohibited from observing the child in their classroom.

Some special education personnel blame HIPPA and Ferpa, for the

prohibition, but this is not true. There is nothing in HIPAA, that
prohibits a parent's evaluator from observing the child in the classroom.

In the court case: JH vs. Henrico County School Board 395 F. 3d. 185
(2005), the court found that an expert needs to observe a child in the
classroom. It would derive from the weight the Court gave to actual
observation of the child in the classroom.

Also in an Office of Special Education Program (OSEP) letter to Mamas,
they confirmed the right to observe, when the district used
observations as part of the evaluation process and referred parents to
state and local policies on observation.

In the Supreme Court Case Schaffer vs. Weast the justices emphasized
that parents should have equal power to school districts, thus
supporting the right to observe. The court also said that "IDEA thus
ensures parental access to an expert who can evaluate all the
materials that the school must make available, and who can give an
independent opinion."

Courts in the past, have stated that little weight should be given to
parent's witnesses, who have not observed in the classroom, and
greater weight be given to school district witnesses because they have
extensively observed the child. This is why it is frustrating, when
special education personnel, refuse to allow parents independent
evaluators to observe the child.

If your school district is refusing to allow your independent
evaluator to observe your child in school, send them a letter. Ask for
a written response as to why they are refusing. Take this response,
and file a state complaint, with your state board of education. The state
complaint could state, that your rights and your child's rights are being

violated, by the school districts prohibition of your independent evaluator
observation.

You can stand up to special education personnel, that tell you lies
and deceptions. Independent evaluators must observe the child in their
current placement, to make the evaluation acceptable to the school
district. This is especially true if you are considering filing for a
due process hearing. If you file, and the school district refuses your
evaluator access to your child's placement, ask the hearing officer
to make a ruling that will allow your evaluator to observe. Good luck!

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